Investigation underway into Macomb fire

Photo Credit: Photo by: Stephen Johnson

The investigation is underway, but it may take some time to find out what started a fire that destroyed at least two businesses on the square in Macomb Wednesday night.

The fire department believes the blaze started in the basement of Chelsea's Hallmark Store on the south side of the square.

The flames quickly spread, and burned everything in their path.

An empty shell of a building isn't the only thing left behind. Many questions still linger about the cause of this fire.

"It's too early to tell about that. Too much to conclude. Right now we have to look at the point of origin and we'll start there and begin our conclusion process at that point," says Fire Chief Andy Taylor.

That will include fire investigators going into the building and sifting through what's left.

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge. You go off a lot of indicators when you investigate fires. You look for burn patterns and how they spread. If you can't get at it to see how the burn patterns might have started, it becomes very difficult," says Taylor.

At that point, investigators begin interviewing employees of the business to see if they can remember if anything might have been left on, or where certain products were placed in the basement. Chief Andy Taylor tells KHQA his department tries to inspect every business in Macomb once a year...he says the businesses are definitely inspected at least once every two years. Chelsea's Hallmark was last inspected in March of 2008. Chief Taylor also says there was no smoke detection equipment inside Chelsea's, but the store was considered in code for that type of business. Unfortunately, it's what's inside Chelsea's that may have caused the fire to get so big so quickly.

"Paper products. It's a Hallmark store, so there were a lot of cards. There was a lot of that sort of thing stored in the basement," says Taylor.

One thing that helped keep the fire from spreading to neighboring buildings was a fire wall on both sides. Chief Taylor says most buildings on the square have brick fire walls separating them.

You may remember a large fire destroyed a restaurant and some apartments back in August of 2000.

Chief Taylor says the big difference with this fire is the buildings did not share attic space, which allowed the flames to spread much more quickly in that fire more than nine years ago.